Monday, 23 July 2012

Memories of the Projection Room

A local resident who used to work in the Regal as a projectionist brought this fantastic picture in to us and we wanted to share it with you.

It's a photograph of the projection room at the Regal in its early years. The two projectors in the picture are the original Kalee 11s which were in place at the cinema's opening in July 1937.

Some of those original features are still in the projection room today, most notably the fire shutters on the far wall. We've even still got one of those tall chairs, especially tall so that the projectionist could see down into the auditorium through the high portal you can see next to where the projectionist is standing in the photograph.

We've been recording the memories of people who have worked in and visited the Regal over the years. These audio recordings will be available on our interactive website soon at and we're also in the process of transcribing some of them as well. A few of the people we've interviewed so far have been those who used to work as projectionists, and we thought this blog post would be a great place to share some of those little snippets about life in the projection room.
Once the films arrived, usually Monday or Tuesday, you'd go down to the cinema, and you had to take the films out of the transport cans and put them onto the spools, the projection spools, and what you were doing was to check them over to make sure that they were alright. Because the distributor would send a running sheet down with the films telling you that they'd checked them and they were all satisfactory... but you never took their word for it.
- David Griffiths
The projectors in the photograph were 'carbon arc' projectors, which meant that instead of having a bulb in them to generator light as more modern projectors do, they actually burnt carbon inside them which gave off a bright light. This is one of the reasons that projection was such a dangerous occupation - that, and the very flammable nitrate film that was used, which has been known to spontaneously combust from only the friction of moving through the projector!

Tom Dallow tells us a little about the carbon arc projectors that he worked with at the Regal;

The thing with carbons... if you let them burn too far apart, they'd go out. But if they burn too close together, the picture would go brown! So, then there used to be some fun and games if you hadn't put enough carbon in there because you'd got to get your hands in the archouse, open it up, tap them up a little bit more with something so that it'd last... they've been out many a night.
- Tom Dallow

We hope you've enjoyed this brief journey into the projection room of years gone by! We'll share some more memories of the Regal over the summer. If you've got any photographs of the Regal that we could feature here, please do let us know!

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